In April 2023 Domestique had a chat with James Whelan about his quest for a pro contract. Six months later the Australian can proudly share he will be part of the Q36.5 Pro cycling Team roster in 2024. Whelan joined us on the latest episode of the Watts Under The Hood podcast. He discussed how he made his dream come true and explains his goals at his new team.
How did your 2023 season go, Jimmy?
James Whelan: "When we last spoke, I was in Europe riding around in old World Tour kit from 2012, training at altitude in Andorra hoping I would find a team. Eventually I didn’t find a team at World Tour or Pro Tour level, so I ended up finding a contract at Glassdrive Q8 Anicolor, which is a Portuguese team."
"It’s been three and a half months of racing in Portugal, doing a few 2.1 races but the big dance for me personally was always going to be the ‘fourth grand tour’: the Volta a Portugal. I was able to win the queen stage towards Senhora da Graça (8,4 km à 7.5% average gradient red.)."
"From that, I managed to find a pro contract for next season. To be honest, it is pretty crazy to be able to say that as the odds have always been against me. However, I've always been manifesting it. I’m pretty proud to be able to achieve it and for the people that have supported me."
Can you talk us through that Volta a Portugal queen stage?
"I came into the Volta a Portugal in really good shape. I spent most of my summer training in Andorra and competed in a few races before without problems. I came into the race with a fairly good weight and really good overall health and fitness to be able chase the GC. In the end I had a problem with my left leg due to a bike fitting issue. I thought it was the end of my race. Twice I had to pull out of the winning move because of the problem, which was fixed after the stage."
It is pretty crazy to be able to say I've got a pro contract as the odds have always been against me
"Coming into the queen stage the issue was recovered enough to try and take the chance to win. I don’t know the numbers that I was doing as I have a left legged powered power meter. I actually turned it off because I didn’t want to see the power meter because of my leg problem. At the end of the day the power doesn’t matter, it is about getting over the line first."
How did you deal with dropping out from the Pro Tour level?
"My biggest problem was that I broke my pelvis and my shoulder in my contract year. I just needed to keep at it. I knew I had the legs and the head for the sport. Now I have the technical skill, the passion and the understanding of the game. Financially, I hoped I could go at it for another two seasons at the continental level. Hoping that the results would bring me back up and that is exactly what happened."
When was your first contact with Douglas Ryder, the general manager of Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team?
"Douglas was aware of my situation at the end of my contract year in 2022, but obviously his team went offline for a year and came back as a Pro Tour team just this season. Team managers were spoilt for choice with riders this season but fortunately I managed to win him over for next season."
By no means was my performance at the Volta a Portugal a ticket to the team, I still had to make the long shortlist featuring various World Tour climbers
"By no means was my performance at the Volta a Portugal a ticket to the team, I still had to make the long shortlist featuring various World Tour climbers who were also out of contract. Obviously, you have to make your own luck, but I do consider myself really lucky to have gotten this opportunity. I’m stoked to have finally received the call from Doug that my contract for next year was confirmed."
Do you know your 2024 race calendar yet?
"Not quite yet. The racing finished just recently and the team have had a few meetings about what riders will go to where. With the one-year contract I have, I want to make sure I take every opportunity as if it's my last. I would really love to be able to compete in the Australian nationals and also Tour Down Under. Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team is not competing in Tour Down Under, but the Australian team is. Hopefully I get selected for that. Q36.5 have the expectation of me being a climber, so expect to see me at races alongside Mark Donovan and Damien Howson seeing what we can do in that space."
With the one-year contract I have, I want to make sure I take every opportunity as if it's my last
Were you training yourself this year or did you have a personal trainer?
"Since October 2021, I have been my own coach. It is going to be a big change for me having a coach after so long. It will be good for me. At Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team we have a coach called Carlos, he coaches Mark Donovan and Damien Howson who have the same setup as me in Andorra. I will fit into his coaching quite seamlessly, I think."
"Over the last two years I have been able to show that my own theories and training provide high performance and I hope we can put together some nice trainings. However next year, I hope that I am racing so much, that I am recovering and racing instead of training like I have done for the last few years."
Listen to the entire interview with James Whelan below!